I just returned from the Nebraska SkillsUSA annual conference in Columbus. It was an awesome experience. I will write more about it, probably until everyone is tired of reading about it, but a short note and a few quotes will have to do for today.

SkillsUSA is a career serving student organization (CSO) serving high school and college students enrolled in programs preparing them for technical, skilled and service careers. Students embrace our slogan "SkillsUSA: Champions at Work" by learning leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development - traits that go into shaping responsible, reliable employees who will one day become leaders in the workplace.

SkillsUSA is dedicated to building champions for America's work force and emphasizes high ethical standards, superior work skills, lifelong education and pride. SkillsUSA also promotes community service, patriotism and an understanding of the free enterprise system.

SkillsUSA Nebraska has yearly state competitions that allow students to showcase their skills and an opportunity to advance to national competitions.

You can find more information at

This is also the perfect time to mention the important work being done in this area by Mike Rowe. You may all know Mike Rowe as just the host of "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel. But he also plays another role as the champion of the skilled trades in America. You can find that part of his work at

Here is a quote from Mike's open letter to President Barak Obama shortly after his inauguration.
Forty years ago, people understood that sweat and dirt were the hallmarks of important work. Today, that understanding has faded. Somewhere in our economy’s massive transition from manufacturing to financial services, we have forsaken skilled labor, along with many aspects of our traditional work ethic. Trade school enrollments are down, even as our infrastructure crumbles around us. I don't think that's a coincidence. Community Colleges are routinely described as alternatives to a “proper” education. Madison Avenue bombards us with messages that equate happiness with leisure. Hollywood portrayals of hard work usually embody an element of drudgery or some silly stereotype, and jobs once considered vital to our society are now simply overlooked. The ranks of welders, carpenters, pipe fitters, and plumbers have been declining for years, and now, we face the bizarre reality of rising unemployment, and a shortage of skilled labor. Strange days.

Whether through elitism or indifference, the net result is the same – people have slowly shied away from these jobs. Not because they aren’t important or lucrative – but because they are simply not celebrated. This perception is real Mr. President, and I believe it’s standing squarely in the way of your recovery plan, as well as your initiative for Volunteerism and national service. In my opinion, it needs to be corrected as soon as possible, which brings me back to my idea. is a destination for anyone looking to investigate a career in the Skilled Trades. Its purpose is to encourage, educate, and celebrate the business of Work, by focusing on those opportunities related to rebuilding our national infrastructure. The idea grew from the mission of Dirty Jobs, and evolved with the help of loyal viewers who constantly provide the site with daily links to scholarships, apprenticeships, fellowships, and other worthwhile programs. Large corporations have offered support. Industry leaders, Retired Generals, teachers, laborers, professors, parents, and students have all gotten involved. My hope for mikeroweWORKS is that it function not just as a useful resource, but also as a “call to arms,” and ultimately, a PR Campaign for Skilled Labor. I would like to see mikeroweWORKS help assure that those three or four million jobs you wish to create, are jobs that people feel proud to have.

People often tell me that Dirty Jobs reminds them of a time when Work was not seen as a thing to avoid. When skilled tradesmen were seen as role models, and a paycheck was not the only benefit of a job well done. We need to recapture that sentiment. We need to celebrate, on a bigger scale, the role models right in front of us. Dirty Jobs has given me the opportunity to do that. With a little luck and the right support, mikeroweWORKS, will take it to the next level.

Many of the comments from the instructors and advisors I met at SkillsUSA echoed these views.

Something to start thinking about.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee will be served during tonight's House Concert (shameless self-promotion!). I hope to see you all here.

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